Minority ReportThursday 04 Jul 2002
Duration: 0 minutes
Directed by Stephen Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Lois Smith and Kathryn Morris.
Based on a short story by sci-fi writer Philip K Dick, 'Minority Report' is set in 2054 when crime has been wiped out in Washington DC due to the psychic skills of a trinity of people called precogs. This trio, who are kept semi-comatose in a womb-like room, see the future. By gleaning clues from their visions, detective John Anderton (Cruise) and his Pre-Crime team can stop murders before they take place, sometimes - as in the nail-biting start of the film - only moments beforehand.
During the six years that the experimental Pre-Crime unit has been in operation, Washington has been murder-free. But now, with the system about to go nationwide, there are indications that the government wants to take it away from Anderton and the founder of Pre-Crime, Lamar Burgess (von Sydow). Under pressure from Burgess, as well having to face the unsettling presence of Justice Department representative Danny Witwer (Farrell), Anderton - nerves already fraying - suddenly sees himself in a precog vision, killing a man he has never met. He only has 36 hours to find out the truth before he becomes a victim to the very system that he helped develop. He's a man on the run in a society where no one can hide.
Cruise is the alienated hero, forced to challenge a system in which he has always believed. Battling his destiny and betrayed by the people he trusted, he races through an immaculately imagined world, veering between being a film-noir hero and an action star straight out of 'Mission Impossible'. Living up to his hype, Irishman Farrell is more than capable in the role of Cruise's nemesis. An early confrontation between the two men crackles with tension as Farrell swaggers into Pre-Crime headquarters, although a later fisticuffs incident seems so contrived as to be laughable.
Other characters are mere ciphers, dropped arbitrarily into the plot in order to move it forward but having no real presence – take Anderton's estranged but very useful wife Lara (Kathryn Morris) and Peter Stormare's comedic turn as an eyeball-replacing doctor.
Spielberg's exceptionally stylish view of the future is arresting from the outset. Details are beautifully portrayed - the transparent computer screens on which Anderton manipulates precog files like a crazed maestro, his escape from a hi-speed magnetic car, the spider-like spy robots who seek out fugitives by scanning their eyes - but there is a darker vision at work behind the glossy surface. A society that freezes what it considers criminals - and these are people who just thought about killing someone - in glass tubes for the duration of their sentence may have some problems with civil liberty. It's the nanny state taken to terrifyingly logical extremes.
Spielberg has always wanted to entertain but in 'Minority Report' he also tackles the big questions: destiny and choice, personal freedom and the greater good. Despite a few design flaws, huge plot holes and illogical appearances, he nearly manages to pull it off but falls at the last fence with an altogether too neat apple-pie ending. But, as a sci-fi thriller with a film-noir twist and a little action hero-ing, 'Minority Report' is still a great ride.